Deeply Rooted: An Interview with Mozzy

TE P once again speaks to the Sacremento rap star, about his life during COVID-19 and being told he could change things for his community.
By    May 6, 2020

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Right now, Mozzy is having his way. As the leader of the Hell Gang puts it, “Besides losing grams, everything is perfect. This is everything I’ve dreamed.” Over the past 6 years, the Sacramento native has become one of rap’s elite talents, melding an innate magnetism with a dynamic command of language.

Along with these intangibles, he applies a work ethic fueled by the determination to never go back to such a tumultuous life. Even now, as both the world outside and the music industry, sit in a holding pattern, Mozzy hasn’t stopped. With his time in the “new normal,” he’s been busy building a new studio that also doubles as a way to keep his Oak Park neighborhood in close, “I spent a lot of time building my studio and reconstructing it… Where I can move half of Oak Park on my little compound.”

In this little compound, Mozzy has remained consistent as ever. Since the top of the year, Mozzy has continued to drop a slew of hauntingly catchy songs and impassioned songs. Tracks like “Big Homie From The Hood,” “I Ain’t Perfect” featuring Blxst and the more recent, “Price Tag” with Polo G and Lil Poppa and “Boys To Men” showcase the level of depth and knowledge that live inside of the “cryers” that have become Mozzy’s signature. Released at the top of the year, “Overcame” speaks directly to the Hell Gang leader’s audience and their ability to keep withstanding the punches that life throws. It’s a bar riddle ballad for the have-nots encompasing addiction, violence, and the pressures of being without. But it welcomes all with open arms as a battle cry to survive.

As we spoke about the impact of this anthem for the underdog, he began to spit the lyrics of the chorus: “How I’m posed to tell my youngin’ go to school when they caught him at the light rail, and stripped him for his jewels? How I’m posed to tell my Auntie not to use, when she ain’t got no other means or methods to numb the abuse? I know your pain baby. But look at all that other shit you overcame baby.”

Moments like this exemplify the brilliance of Mozzy and provide the clearest understanding of why he has such a devoted fanbase. These songs are as much part of him as the trials and tribulations that have shaped his remarkably dramatic life. Though there are many rappers who try to do the same, few connect the way Mozzy does. With him, there is a selflessness to share all that he is, and all that he isn’t, with those who he connects with the most—the often overlooked and undervalued. To be a man of the people, one must understand that they are just that—people. We all go through tough times and sometimes they get the best of us. But, that is what makes us who we are, and Mozzy displays that everytime he fellowships with his devoted congregation of followers.

And through the turbulence, Mozzy has found positivity.

“I try to find the benefits in every situation,” he tells me. “That’s whether I’m in jail or going through a CPS case. I look for the benefits and all the positives. I try to gather them up and I base my energy and outlook on that.” And it’s with this energy that Mozzy created the long-awaited, Beyond Bulletproof. As easy as it may be for titles, songs, and projects to come and go, for Mozzy this one feels different, and he approached it that way, “I just lost granny. So, I was able to dig deep on this one. A lot of those projects, I was trying to prove something. This project I wasn’t trying to prove anything. This one I was just giving the people me.”

Mozzy speaks with a startling lucidity. That really doesn’t come as a surprise because it exists so centrally in his music. Recently, he’s begun pulling back the curtain to show the world that he’s much more than just a rapper. His new YouTube series, “Untreated Trauma” peels the layers of pain and anguish he went through from trying to get his child from CPS to being in and out of jail during the custody battle. He’s also turned his social media into a platform for bail reform as he works alongside The Bail Project to raise awareness and help people get involved in changing a broken system. Even in the small things like making his album available on JPay for the good brothas and sistas behind the wall, Mozzy’s purpose feels higher.

In this “new” normal, as things feel so ambiguous and unsettled, Mozzy is, in fact, ecstatic. And why wouldn’t he be? The dream for him, no matter how, why, or when, was always to make a better way for him, his family, and his neighborhood, “I get to wake up and enjoy the dream that I once had. It’s crazy because I knew. I knew it was possible. I knew I was gonna accomplish it.”

In “Boys To Men,” Mozzy has a line that speaks to the fragility of confidence, “You got potential. They don’t tell us though. So, you’ll never know.” Some may say seeing is believing, but in Mozzy’s case, believing was seeing. And his sight has never been clearer. — TE P.

Since the last time we spoke, I know a lot has happened, and there’s a lot going on. How are you adjusting to what we’re calling this “new” normal?

Mozzy: I love it. I love it. I hate that a lot of people gotta suffer from it. But outside of the pain, the suffering, the death, I actually love it.

What are some things you’ve been doing with your time outside of music?

Mozzy: Building my studio. I spent a lot of time building my studio and reconstructing it. That’s probably why I’m like this so much. It’s given me a lot of time to dedicate to this project.

It’s like your own personal space?

Mozzy: For sure. Yes. Where I can move half of Oak Park on my little compound.

With it feeling like this distant thing now. What’s something that you would say you miss most about “outside”?

Mozzy: Sittin’ down at a restaurant. Or walking through the malls I miss the most. When I say I miss the malls, its because I get a lot of love at the malls. If I’m having a down day, I can just go to the mall and the love I receive from the people, it will turn my spirit up. It will amplify the mood. It will energize my motor.

This thing has been affecting our communities differently than other communities. You being from Oak Park, how has your community been dealing with this?

Mozzy: I think we’re dealing with it much like the rest of California is dealing with it. It doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything different than LA. I’ve been back and forth. I’ll go home then I’ll come back out here. They’re similar. They both have a lot of the same similarities like a lack of traffic, you can get from A to Z hella fast, all the same stores are shut down. It really ain’t no difference outside. It’s just being with the people who you surround yourself by is the only difference.

We’ve also seen different rappers being touched by this. People like Scarface, Westside Gunn, and more recently, prayers to Fred da Godson and his family. What do you think are some things as a community we need to be doing to inform people?

Mozzy: First and foremost it’s taking this thing serious. Me—personally—I didn’t take this shit serious. I’m like this is foo. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think people were actually dying. I didn’t think it was contagious or really serious. Then they started shutting schools down and jobs. That’s kind of where being serious kicked it. But I feel like we should take this serious as individuals because it will rub off on somebody else. I was seeing people come outside with gloves and mask. And I was like, “I don’t give a fuck about gloves and mask. This ain’t that serious.” Then I was out there with my daughter and somebody pulled up on me. They light weight growled on me like, “Bruh. What is doing? You need some gloves? You need a mask? Hold on… stay right here. I’ll be right back.” He grabbed two masks for me and my daughter. That alone made me a believer. I started following protocol. I started taking all the extra precautions. I think us as a people taking this serious and us a people seeing this is being taken serious will inspire others to do the same.

The music industry is also in a weird place where it’s almost at a stand still. For you, this changed anything?

Mozzy: I still been working. I’ve been recording. It’s not like my job is completely shut down because I can record anywhere. I can record at home. I can record at bruh studio. So, I’ve been recording. Building the studio has really been keeping me occupied. I’ve been doing a lot of recording on other people’s songs. I’ve been mastering and getting my album all the way together. I look at the benefits. I try not to pay attention or dwell on the negatives too much. I try to find the benefits in every situation. That’s whether I’m in jail or going through a CPS case. I look for the benefits and all the positives. I try to gather them up and I base my energy and outlook on that. Right now I’ve been seeing all benefits. Right now, the benefits have been me kicking it with my daughters, me having extra time to write raps, me having extra time to build my studio, me spending hella time with my family, saving a lot of money due to the fact that materialistic things aren’t as important as they were, and I’m loving life. If the shit stay like this forever I wouldn’t mind.

On a positive note, what are some advice you can give to some of these cats who are looking at this as a negative and feel like their back is against the wall?

Mozzy: Find something creative to do. Find something positive to do with your time. Use this as a time to stack. Run yo’ bag up! Find a niche. Find something. If they took you out of work, you gotta use all your hustle muscle. You gotta max out. You have to be sincere with whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. So, if you’re a boxer, now you ain’t got nothing but time to just box. Box, box. If you’re a rapper, now is your time to write raps. And I’m talking about people that are aspiring to be these things. This is your time! Go crazy! You got home school now. All the schools are shut down. You’re at home now. Wake up and write, write, write crazy. Whatever it is creatively that you love doing, you should max out on it right now during these times. You know it ain’t never too late to start but you should have already started.

Let’s get to some music. I want to start with “Overcame.” It’s a powerful song. There are a lot of pieces in there that you would have to go through or be from it to understand. But there are also other pieces that everyone can get. Can you break down how that song came about?

Mozzy: I let the beat talk to me. I usually try not to try too hard. I always fumble when I try too hard. So when the beat come on, I let the mothafucka speak to me, and I speak to it, and we build a relationship. Then I build off of that. “Overcame” came on and I already knew I was gonna go crazy. I think I already wrote a verse. I think I wrote one prior to the studio so I already knew what I was going to do. The hook came natural while I was in the studio. I think I had a different hook but I tweaked it and switched out eventually. That whole song. I was just in love with it. I was in love with the direction it was going.

Also, something that people don’t give you a lot of credit for is the visuals that go along with the songs.

Mozzy: You right. I think they sleep on the visuals and the message.

How I’m posed to tell my youngin’ go to school when they caught him at the lightrail, and stripped him for his jewels? How I’m posed to tell my Auntie not to use, when she ain’t got no other means or methods to numb the abuse? I know your pain baby. But look at all that other shit you overcame baby.

There’s a group of fans that listen to the music and they bop and fuck with it like that. And then there’s a group of fans that cry when they see me. They slap my hand hella hard. They damn near choke me when they hug me. It touches the core. It’s crazy because that’s the only people I’ve ever done this shit for. Those are the people I wanted to touch. To see the reaction from them is crazy. It will do something to you.

In the video you can see the spirit in the people. You can see the glow and the pride in being a part of it as you bring it back to them. You’re not taking it and leaving.

Mozzy: We gotta bring it back. I’m deeply rooted. I’m not one of them niggas who came to the hood when I was 17 and started bangin’ the hood because I thought it was dope. I’m a child of this. My roots are here. My mom, my dad, my grandmother. My grandmother owned property here. I was here since I was 2. So, I’m deeply rooted. I’m fatally attracted. I’m too attached to forget about these people. I remember being a kid and remembering them saying, “Never forget where you come from.” I march with that. I wore that mothafucka around my neck. I put it on and locked it like a wrist watch. Those are jewels I carry with me for a lifetime. I feel like I’ve done a good job in not forgetting where I come from.

In other songs like, “Boys To Men,” there are pieces that can get picked out that feel like its game that you picked up and you insert it. In the song you say, “You got potential. They don’t tell us though. So, you’ll never know.” Can you speak to that feeling when you have all of the potential in the world but it doesn’t speak to you until you realize, “Oh shit. I can do this?”

Mozzy: It’s part of seeing and believing. It’s a part of inspiring. I remember that nigga Nip said, “The highest human act is to inspire.” I feel like giving people good feedback, or letting people know they’re on the right track, or letting them know their going the wrong way; I remember people telling me when I used to come to jail they would be disturbed. They would want to line it up or fade, whatever the case may be, because they felt like I was messin’ up. And these are my peers. They were like, “What the fuck are you doing in here? You have future! You can do something for us! You can change shit for us! We betting the bank on you!” You know I never wanted to fail them. But I appreciated them because if they didn’t give me those words of wisdom or advice, ain’t no telling where I’d be without the encouragement of the streets and the people that I love. I used to work hard at basketball. I used to want to be like Iverson. I went high school and I didn’t make the team. A nigga told me, “You garbage. You got handles but you can’t score.” And that threw me all the way off to the point where I was done with basketball. It worked against me. But I found something that I loved and stuck with that. I didn’t let anyone derail me. I just feel like encouraging the youth to pursue with passion is a necessity. It’s needed.

So, all of this music has been a lead up to Beyond Bulletproof. The title may seem self-explanatory but can you break it down for me in your words?

Mozzy: This is for the voiceless. The nigga who ain’t got no voice. The niggas we overlook everday. The less fortunate. The niggas in the penetentiary. The niggas behind those walls screaming out for help with no response. It’s crazy because that’s who I target. Even if they don’t never buy my shit, that’s the audience I target because I have an unconditional love for these people. This is all I’ve ever known.

How has making this project been different than making the others?

Mozzy: Making this project is the loss of my grandmother. I just loss granny. So, I was able to dig deep on this one. A lot of those projects, I was trying to prove something. This project I wasn’t trying to prove anything. This one I was just digging deep and giving the people me. 100 percent me. My current events. It’s a lot of pain. It’s a lot of therapy sessions. It’s a lot of jewels. It’s a lot of substance. I feel like out of all of the projects I made, this one has the the most substance. And ain’t no watered down substance. It’s real nigga substance. It’s coming from somebody that the youngin’s will listen to. So it has a lot of value. I feel like this album is very valuable to young America—to Black America.

You spoke about the pain. And my condolences again for losing your grandmom. What would you say was the best part of making this?

Mozzy: When I understood where I was going with it. When I finally realized the direction I was taking it. At first I was thinking of names and were throwing shit out there. A lot of shit fit, a lot of the shit didn’t fit. It was a lack of direction. I didn’t know which direction I was gonna go. I didn’t know if it was going to be just a gang related project or a throwaway. I didn’t know what it was going to be. And once I started to figure it out, and started making joints, it was therapy sessions. It was giving the cd to JPay a week before it comes out. It was going to Skid Row to feed the people. It was toy drives. Really getting out there with the people. That was the best part of this project. And understanding that this project was about the people. It was just dope.

Are there any particular moments on this project that you want people to internalize? As far as, no matter what they take away from it, you want them to be like, “This is something that I can take with me forever.”

Mozzy: That’s what I tried to inspire with the whole album. I wanted something different. All the gangsta rappers, all we talk about is shoot ‘em up—bang bang. All we talk about is participating in activities and jail time. I wanted them to see it from a different perspective. I want ‘em to be able to feel like this album was in dedication to them. I want people to feel like, “He dedicated this song to me. This is my life. This is about me.” That’s how I used to feel when I listened to music of people that I still carry with me to this day. Rest In Peace The Jacka. I felt like word for word he spoke for the way I lived. I felt like, “Ain’t no way in the world.” I thought I was doing abnormal shit. I felt like I was one of the few humans that lived like this. And he was word for word describing my everyday life. That’s the same kind of feeling I wasn’t to inspire in others.

I know before you told me on your project with Tsu Surf that he got you a few times. Would you say anyone on this project got you?

Mozzy: I think Von, OTF Von flamed me. Him and G Herbo. I think them niggas flamed me. Blxst even though he’s a singer. He fucked me up on that “I Ain’t Perfect.” He his dougie. You know the people say Lil Pop and Polo G flamed me. They said they cooked me. Seasoned me and cooked me well done. That’s it though. I don’t think that too many other people got me. I love the friendly competition. I embrace.

Outside of the music, you’ve also been lending a lot of your time, energy, and resources to social initiatives with bail reform being one. Can you speak to your work there?

Mozzy: I locked in with them. You know, I have a platform with a lot of people that can benefit off the whole situation. So, I do everything I could and can as far as helping them build their stuff up. They’ve already been doing their dougie. They’ve freed over 10,000 people. I just get in where I fit in, man. Anywhere I can get in and squeeze in because it’s something that I feel like I’ve been a part of for a lifetime. Every time a nigga go to jail he call Hell Gang Mozzy. And I damn near make sure he gets out. Even if I don’t post the whole bond I got 40 to 50 percent on it. I got 80 percent on it. I done bailed out a lot of people. I collaborated with them because I feel like it could benefit a lot of people. They always say two people are better than one. Two pockets are better than one so let’s get it!

Where do you feel a lot of folks get this issue wrong?

Mozzy: They just trying to boom. They using it to benefit. For the writers, bloggers, etcetera. I can’t be mad at them though. That’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re doing their job.

How do you think the average person can help?

Mozzy: I have a lot of it on my social sights to people can tap in. You can also tap in with my manager DaveO. You can reach him and he’ll put stuff together. You can hit me directly and tell me, “Bruh. I see you’re doing this I want to be involved.” Or, “I see you’re doing this. I have something to contribute.” we’ll make something shake. I’m a regular real nigga. I get out there and get my hands and feet dirty and vibe with the people. It’s nothing.

You mentioned previously that you were going to therapy. Can you tell me about your progression in it?

Mozzy: I only went to two classes. So, I don’t feel like a major difference. A lot of weight was definitely lifted. I enjoyed it. I felt like it was beneficial. I spent a lot of money for it too but I felt like I got all my money’s worth.

Therapy in our community that people look at a certain type of way, you being able to film it and show it is out of the box. What made you want to film this series, “Untreated Trauma”?

Mozzy: I just wanted the young life to get a dose of it. I want to inspire the young to get their tid bits in. Lining up with their problems head on. Don’t do any running. If you have an issue, go handle that as a man. Before you are be a gangsta, you gotta become a man. My grandmom taught me that and it’s stuck with me to this day. I just went them to grow to become young men before they throw their life away. I want them to take care of their young. I want you to understand how valuable your children are. I wanted to show how far and what kind of obstacles I had to overcome with mine. And how serious and passionate I was about the whole situation. Maybe that could inspire them.

What has the reception been like after releasing the past few episodes?

Mozzy: I ain’t gon’ lie. I’ve been getting in trouble man. [laughs] I been getting in trouble, man. I’ve been getting in trouble by the people I love for putting their business out there. And I’ve been getting in trouble, you know I had a episode about my daughter’s mom. And she flashed on me about that shit. But outside of that, people get a different side of Mozzy. They get a side they didn’t know anything about. I feel like the reception has been positive. I look at the comments. People are in my comments telling me that “Untreated Trauma” has lifted them in ways that I can only imagine. But if it affects somebody I love, it makes it bitter sweet.

At the end of our previous conversation, you said that point in time was the proudest you’d been. You felt like you accomplished all you set out to do. You had gotten the reception from the people. You put your kids in a place where you felt it was everything that you wanted. Has that changed? How do you feel right now?

Mozzy: Right now I’m most proud of building this real estate. I get a kick out of that right now. I can’t lie I’m having it my way. I would be lyin’ if I smut the game and act like I want for more. Man, I’m having it my way. I’m ecstatic! I couldn’t ask for more. Besides grams, everything is perfect. This is everything live dreamed. I get to wake up and enjoy the dream that I once had. It’s crazy because I knew. I knew it was possible. I knew I was gonna accomplish it. So, to actually be in this present moment right now and actually living this shit is dope. I can’t find the right words to even package it. I’m ecstatic!

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